Eastern Voices


Eastern Voices documentary by Frank Scheffer and Günter Wallbrecht about the fusion of eastern and western music as experienced by participants in the Morgenland Festival in Osnabrück, Germany. (Morgen in German means "morning" with the sun rising in the East and Morgenland here means the Middle East.) Disc features Ibrahim Keivo, the Alim & Fargana Qasimov Ensemble, Salar Aghili & Harir Shariatzadeh; the Yulduz Turdieva Ensemble, Christian Heinecke, the Morgenland Chamber Orchestra, and Nader Mashayekhi. The documentary lasts 49 minutes. It has rehearsal segments, interviews, and excerpts of concert performances. The bonus consists of 63 minutes of straight performance by Eastern artists. Released 2011, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B

Eastern Voices begins with a short documentary film about the meeting of the Morgenland Chamber Orchestra and various stars of the Middle East and Western Asia traditional music scene.

The bulk of the documentary is split in two modes. Roughly half the documentary consists of interviews with the Eastern singers and musicians and the Western organizers of the concert. The other half, interspersed between interviews, is comprised of clips of the performers playing their music. Sometimes the action focuses on the practice hall, while others showcase the Eastern stars in solo or small group performances. The film does a good job of switching between the two modes, which helps keep the viewer engaged.

Unfortunately, the content of the interviews isn't all that enlightening. We would have preferred to learn more about the difference in the history and structure of the two musical styles. Instead, we mostly get testimonials about how awe-inspiring it is to work with musicians from a different cultural background. Still, the performances included in the documentary were stellar, with first-rate PQ and SQ. 

Luckily, this is one of those discs where the bonus feature is more valuable than the main program. The bonus has 3 substantial live performances, uninterrupted by interviews, that combined last for a bit over an hour. The first performance in particular, a complete  Mugham Bayati Shiraz by the Alim & Fargana Qasimov Ensemble, is arresting. It is a wonderful piece of music performed by masters.

This website is devoted to fine-arts performances in high-definition video. We report on "classical" performances from all regions of the world (not just Western-style art forms). We do not, however, cover Western pop music, jazz, musicals, or folk music.

So what should we make of the performances on this disc of Eastern music? Many Westerners might say this is folk music because it is handed down by memory, not notated, and played on instruments that, one gathers, have not changed much in centuries.

But we are also told that the subjects of this music are "love, humanity, respect, and beauty" and that much of the music is set to texts from great poets of literature. This music would have, it seems, a much loftier position in Eastern cultures than that enjoyed by Western square-dance fiddlers. Although some humor might slip in, the performances command attention and concentration.

The works are delivered by serious performers who seek to edify as well as entertain. And when it comes to a fusion work, the Eastern performers are joined to a Western-style chamber orchestra that would normally be playing Mozart or Messiaen. So we conclude that this style of music is "classical" for the countries of origin and should be covered here.

We also note that some of the musicians in this video wear incredibly beautiful garments which are themselves be works of art. This come across well in 1080 resolution.

Here is a nice clip about this disc: